Parents often wonder whether they should encourage or even allow their teenage children to work. There is no one answer or formula that fits each child or each situation. Part of the decision will depend on your particular child, his temperament, maturity, and motivation, and your family’s situation.
Considering beforehand the many issues involved in terms of your unique child as well as those related to teens working in general can make the decision-making process a learning opportunity for your adolescent.
By building in on-going discussions with him about how he is managing all his responsibilities, you can increase the likelihood that the experience will be positive and that you and your teen are on the same page and are keeping your goals aligned.
The process can be one that brings you closer together as you support his new venture while offering guidance and encouragement.
Things to consider
His main job now is to get an education.
It is important to communicate to your teen that as much as work may be a good thing for him, his main job at this point in his life is to get an education.
- Think about what expectations you have for your teen as far as his school work and academic achievement if he does take a job. Do you want him to maintain a certain grade-point average? These standards should be communicated clearly.
- Set a time with your child, perhaps once a month, to review how his schoolwork is being impacted by his taking a job. This includes grades, projects, homework, etc. If the previously established standards are not maintained, you and he will have to re-evaluate his work schedule and hours.
Encourage your teen to think about his priorities.
- He will have less time available to participate in extra-curricular activities and he may have to limit his involvement in some that he had enjoyed. Through discussions, you can help him decide what he considers most important and support him as he adjusts his schedule.
- You can let your budding employee know that you consider it important that he find time to maintain a presence in the family and participate in certain family activities (meals, discussions, outings, etc.)
- You can also expect that he will continue to help out around the house – not necessarily to earn an allowance, but because “family members have to contribute to the household functioning in order for things to run smoothly.”
Check your states guidelines and legal limits.
Many states establish a maximum number of hours per week that teens are allowed to work. Check with your state for the legal limits it sets. You may want to establish fewer hours than your state’s maximum. Government guidelines indicate that while working provides teens with many benefits, working too many hours can result in greater absenteeism, incomplete assignments , and lowered grades.
Use your teen’s working as an opportunity to teach.
- If it seems that he is working too many hours or that his boss is not considering his other responsibilities, work with your teen to find ways to address the issue with his employer. Rather than speak to the employer yourself, it is better for your youngster if you empower him with words and general approaches that he can use to advocate for himself.
- This is a great opportunity to teach some of your values about how to manage money by setting some guidelines about what he does with the money he earns.
For example, you can have him save a certain percentage for longer term use (i.e., college or advanced study or larger purchases that he wants to make), for charitable giving, and of course for some of his own discretionary spending needs.
Including him in the decisions about any allocations will be most effective and lead to fewer disagreements.
Be supportive and appreciate the benefits to your teen.
- You can make sure that your teen is aware of the many benefits that you see in his working (as long as other commitments in his life are met.) In addition to being supportive of his interest in seeking employment, you will show that you have considered carefully how this could be a help to him, thereby providing a vehicle for you to pass on some of your values.
- He will learn to be responsible in the “real world” by having to live up to expectations of an employer. Teens often feel a very different level of accountability in a job than they do at home or school, and often take it much more seriously.
- He will be learning real life skills which will be useful to him throughout his adulthood.
- He will have the opportunity to learn to spend money wisely while he is still under your guidance and the risks are small.
- He will learn time management skills.
- He will have an opportunity to evaluate how he feels about certain jobs, work environments, or fields of interest he may want to pursue as he develops a career.
Remember that no decision is written in stone. After giving it a try, you and your teen may conclude after all that working is not the best option for him. You can look at the effort as a worthwhile experiment, applaud yourselves for being so thoughtful about it, and feel good about how flexible you were to attempt it, adapt and make changes if working doesn’t work out.
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